Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oracles and Visions: Which One is a Burden?

It's odd, this reading, pursuing, receiving, researching, and writing messages from God's Word. As I grow ever nearer to the two year blogging mark, you'd think I would have it figured out by now. But I'm still as baffled by it all as I was in the beginning, not knowing which messages will touch others in a demonstrable way and which messages will be met with silence.

Just last week, I wrote on a comparison of two Ninevehs that I found so fabulous, it hurt my excited face to tell it. And I got no response. This week's topic I find just as amazing. But I have no idea how it will be received.

God's message: I don't understand how it impacts others' lives. The Holy Spirit is still a mystery in the way He it should be. The Spirit is an equal part of the trinity, and if I cannot understand God in His entirety, why would my understanding of the Spirit be any different?

But two things I do know: (1) the telling of the message is mandatory and (2) the telling is not always easy.

Over the past few months, I've been delving into the minor prophets--Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk--and their messages from God along with more than a few rabbit trails through Isaiah and Jeremiah.

What recently sparked my interest was how Nahum referred to the message he received. He called it "The oracle of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshitee" (Nah. 1:1, my italics).

Oracle. Vision. Redundant much?

When I came to Habakkuk, he started off saying, "The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw" (Hab. 1:1, my italics). One chapter later, though, he flipped to the other word: "Then the LORD answered me and said, 'Record the vision...'" (Hab. 2:2, my italics).

Oracle. Vision. Again?

I always assumed the two words held the same meaning. But a quick look into the Hebrew reveals a different story.

According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament, the word "vision" means "a revelation by means of a vision, an oracle, a divine communication. The primary essence of this word is not so much the vision or dream itself as the message conveyed. It signifies the direct, specific communication between God and people through the prophetic office" (p.325).

This definition was expected. It's how I use the term "vision." But the term "oracle" was a surprise. The same Dictionary defined the word "oracle" as "a burden or load; by extension, a burden in the form of a prophetic utterance or oracle. It is derived from the verb nasa meaning to lift, to bear, to carry" (674).

For both Nahum and Habakkuk, their message, their divine communication from God, was a burden for them from the beginning. The knowledge was a burden. The telling to a people who didn't want to listen and might kill them for the telling was a burden.

But they were not excused from the telling. The Lord even told Habakkuk, "
Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run" (Hab. 2:2). The image here is of a messenger who receives the message and runs to the next post to share the news with the next messenger who will then take the message and run.....

Burden or not, the message must be told.

I went back to Isaiah to see if he used both words--he did. Interestingly, he begins in the first few chapters using the word "vision," telling the reader that this is a divine message from God. But by Chapter 13, he swaps almost completely to using the word massa translated "oracles" as he presents specific divine messages of destruction concerning Babylon, Moab, Damascus, Egypt, Edom, Arabia.....

It appears that when Isaiah began giving specific doomsday messages to specific peoples, the message of the vision became a huge burden--either for him to bear or for him to tell...or maybe both.

Many times in my writing here, I've asked my husband to review my posts pre-publication to ensure I was Scripturally sound. In truth, I wanted to make sure he knew what I was publishing since it was truth but wasn't politically correct. I needed him to know it could bring down the wrath of one public interest group or another.

Writing God's truth, telling God's truth is difficult in a culture that doesn't want to hear a workplace that doesn't want to hear a family that doesn't want to hear it.

Not every telling of God's message of sin and redemption is a burden. But when we're called upon in Christian love to share a specific message to a specific person we know (or even a specific people group we know will be hostile to the message), that's when it gets hard for our souls to voice aloud God's message of truth. Those are the times we need to rely less on ourselves and more on the Spirit to provide us the courage we need to persevere and deliver the message as God intended.

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